Tag Archive | health

8 Natural Mosquito Repellents

by Michelle Schoffro Cook

 

Before you grab that DEET-based mosquito repellent, consider using a natural option instead. DEET, also known as diethyl-meta-toluamide, by any other name still stinks. And research proves that the main ingredient in commercial mosquito repellents leaves more than a bad odor.  According to a Duke University study, it damages brain cells, can cause behavioural changes, and can have harmful interactions with some medications.  The scientists also observed that it caused brain cell death in animals frequently exposed to or after prolonged use of DEET.

Additional research found that up to 15 percent of DEET is absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream.  According to safety data sheets on diethyl-meta-toluaminde, the toxic effects of this chemical include: reproductive disturbances, genetic material mutations, and central nervous system disorders.

There’s no need to suffer long-term and serious health consequences to ward off pesky mosquitoes.  Choose a natural alternative that’s proven to work as effectively as DEET or in some case, MORE effectively than DEET.

Here are some natural options:

1. Catnip—You can drive cats wild and make mosquitoes run in terror, according to research at Iowa State University which found that the essential oil found in the herb catnip is about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

2. Citronella—the old standby. Use only pure essential oil of citronella—not fragrance oil.  Oils purchased in bulk for burning are not adequate for applying topically to your skin.  For your skin it is best to get a high quality citronella essential oil from a natural food store.  While it’s not as effective as catnip, it’s still a good option.

3. Garlic—eat lots of fresh garlic—mosquitoes can’t stand the stuff.

4. Lavender essential oil smells great and is a commonly used and effective mosquito repellent.  It’s best diluted in a carrier oil like apricot kernel, sweet almond, or coconut oil.  If you can find organic soy oil, it is also a good option since it also keeps mosquitoes at bay.

5. Neem oil or neem seed oil:  According to a study by the US National Research Council neem oil is more effective than DEET.  The results were confirmed by scientists at the Malaria Institute in India and in research cited in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. Neem is a plant that grows in India.

6. Organic soy oil—Research cited in The New England Journal of Medicine found that repellents made of soybean oil are just as effective as DEET-containing repellents. Soy oil is inexpensive and easy to find, making it an excellent choice. Plus, it is an excellent body moisturizer. As an aside, research shows that an ingredient in soy can slow the growth of body hair when applied topically.  Choose organic soy oil if possible since many soy crops are now genetically-modified.

7. Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)—New research published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine shows that lotus is an effective mosquito repellent and also helps kill mosquito larvae.  Since lotus grows in water it is a good option as a natural repellent in backyard ponds and water features rather than something that is applied topically.

8. Black pepper (Piper nigrum)—New research from the same study shows that an extract (the study used an alcohol extract but black pepper essential oil would probably work too) of black pepper is effective in repelling mosquitoes.

I mix about 30 drops of the essential oils of catnip, citronella, lavender, neem, and black pepper (total, so about 6 drops of each essential oil) into about 30 mL of an unscented and natural oil or moisturizer, which I keep handy in a jar. I rub a bit onto my skin prior to heading outdoors. You can also mix 30 drops of these essential oils into organic soy oil for extra protection. Always do a 24-hour skin test to be sure you don’t have sensitivities to any of the oils.

7 Ways to Help Honey Bees

by Eve Fox

The bad news is that our honey bees are dying. U.S. bee keepers lost a shocking 31% of their hives this winter, as they have for the past seven years in a row. Although the exact causes of Colony Collapse Disorder are not 100% certain, what is crystal clear is that we’re speeding towards the disastrous point at which we will not have enough bees to pollinate our crops.

The good news is that there are a number of easy (even enjoyable) ways YOU can help honey bees to survive and, hopefully, to thrive. And none of them involve rushing out to buy protective mesh clothing and a smoke can!

Here are seven simple ways to help our favorite pollinators out.

1. Add your name to the petition urging the EPA and USDA to ban neonicotinoids, a widely used class of agricultural pesticides that is highly toxic to bees and believed to play a crucial role in colony collapse disorder. The EU has just enacted a ban on neonicotinoids and we must follow Europe’s lead as there is literally no time to waste.

2. Let dandelions and clover grow in your yard. Dandelions and clover are two of the bees’ favorite foods – they provide tons of nourishment and pollen for our pollinators to make honey and to feed their young.  And these flowers could not be any easier to grow – all you have to do is not do anything.

3. Stop using commercial pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers – these chemicals are harmful to the bees. And they’re also harmful to you, your family, and our soil and water supply, too. Definitely not worth it!

4. Eat more honey and buy it from a local bee keeper. This is a pretty sweet way to help the bees (sorry, I can never resist a good pun.) Unlike big honey companies, local bee keepers tend to be much more concerned about the health of their bees than they are about their profits. And their products do not have to travel far to reach your kitchen, either. You can almost always find local honey at your farmers’ market and it may also be available at your local health food or grocery store. It may cost a little more than the commercial options, but it’s well worth it.

5. Plant bee-friendly flowers. This not only helps the honey bees, it will also make your yard more beautiful and can also provide you with a bunch of great culinary herbs.In addition to the dandelions and clover I mentioned above, bees love many other flowers, including: bee balm, borage, asters, lavender, thyme, mint, rosemary, honey suckle, poppies, sunflowers, marigolds, salvia, butterfly bush, clematis, echinacea,  blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, fennel, yellow hyssop, milkweed, goldenrod, and many more.

You can also just buy one of those pre-mixed packets of wildflowers with good results. And, if you’re ever in doubt, choose native plants as they will be best suited to the climate you live in and can help support the bees throughout the season.6. Buy organic. Organic food and fibers like cotton and hemp are produced without the use of commercial pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, making them inherently more bee-friendly than conventionally grown products.
7. Share this post with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to help build more “buzz” for honey bees.

Top 10 House Plants that Clean the Air

Areca Palm

Also known as yellow palm or butterfly palm, the areca palm is one of the most popular and graceful palms. It is tolerant of the indoor environment, releases copious amounts of moisture into the air, removes chemical toxins, and is beautiful. The areca is consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins tested. Best in direct, bright sunlight.

Raphis Palm

This large palm has fans six to 12 inch wide with four and 10 thick, shiny leaves. It is highly resistant to attack by most plant insects and is great for improving indoor air quality. It grows slowly and is easy to maintain. Best in direct, bright sunlight.

Bamboo Palm

Easy to care for and a popular variety. The bamboo palm pumps much needed moisture into the indoor atmosphere, especially during winter months when heating systems dry the air. This palm is also one of the top-rated plants tested for the removal of benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Best in direct, bright sunlight.

Rubber Plant

Bred for toughness, it will tolerate dim light and cool temperatures, making it an excellent house plant. This plant is easy to grow and is great for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment, particularly formaldehyde. Best in direct, bright sunlight to indirect, medium sunlight.

Dracaena “Janet Craig”

The dark-green leaves of dracaena “Janet Craig” make it an attractive plant. It is one of the best plants for removing trichloreoethylene. These plants can tolerate neglect and dimly lit environments. This plant does best in indirect, medium sunlight. It will tolerate dimly lit areas, but growth will be slow.

English Ivy

English Ivy is often used as ground cover in public atriums or lobbies. But to add interest, try growing it in topiary form or in hanging baskets. They are easy to grow and adapt to a variety of home environments. However, they do not generally do well in high temperatures. Best in indirect, medium sunlight to low sunlight.

Pothos

One of the primary reasons Pothos is popular is it can tolerate lower light, lower humidity and cooler temperatures than many other plants. Pothos are rated one of the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins. Pothos also goes by a few other names: devil’s ivy, pothos ivy and has a few cultivars. The most common variety “Golden Pothos” gets the most use in the interior business. Two other varieties are “Marble Queen” with a streaky white on green and “Jade” which is green. Pothos does not like wet feet and the soil should not stay too moist. Every so often a Pothos could use a good pruning – but prune selectively. This will also promote new growth. Best in indirect, medium sunlight but it will also tolerate very low light.

Ficus Alii

This is a new ficus variety that is rapidly gaining in popularity. Its slender dark green leaves make it an extremely attractive plant. Its ability to help purify the air, ease of growth and resistance to insects make it an excellent choice for the home or office. It is much less finicky than the Ficus Benjamina. Like all species of ficus, expect some leaf drop until the plant adjusts to its new location. Best in direct, bright sunlight to indirect, medium sunlight.

Boston Fern

Ferns are probably one of the oldest groups of plants. Many have been found as fossils dating back to prehistoric times. The Boston Fern’s stiff fronds arch out, drooping downward as they age. It is grown strictly for its foliage for it does not produce flowers. It is best displayed in a hanging basket or sitting upon a pedestal. As an indoor plant, the Boston Fern requires a certain amount of attention. It must have frequent misting and watering, or the leaves will quickly turn brown and begin to drop. It is the best for removing air pollutants, especially formaldehyde, and for adding humidity to the indoor environment. Best in indirect, medium sunlight.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

An outstanding foliage plant that also produces beautiful white spathes, the peace lily should always be included when seeking a variety of indoor plants. This plant has a high transpiration rate and enjoys the large water reservoir that hydroculture offers. It possesses all the qualities to make it one of the best indoor plants. The Peace Lily excels in the removal of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. Its ability to remove air pollutants and its excellent performance in all categories make it a most valuable houseplant. Best in indirect, medium sunlight to low sunlight.

Natural Remedies for Receding Gums

Receding gums is often one of the first signs that warn you of gum disease. When gums start receding, they create a space between your teeth and the gums and this will cause bacteria to enter the gums and start damaging the tissues.

Many reasons like poor dental hygiene,periodontal disease, heredity, hormone imbalances and aggressive brushing of the teeth are some reasons associated with this condition. Receding gums need not always be treated in a dentist’s office. There are some natural remedies that can be used at home in order to control the deterioration of the gums and teeth.

Natural Remedies For Receding Gums

Green Tea

Rich in antioxidants, green tea is known as the elixir of health and can be used for treating and preventing the onset of a number of diseases. Taking green tea will help in reducing the damage caused to the teeth as a result of receding gums. Green tea reduces inflammation of the gums and also helps in destroying the bacteria in the mouth that can cause periodontal problems. Take a cup of green tea in the morning to keep your gums and teeth strong.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil can be used in the same manner as a mouthwash for removing toxic substances and plaque buildup in the gums, which too can cause the gums to recede.

Take a quarter cup of sesame oil and swish your mouth thoroughly with this. Warming the oil slightly can help as it can help in better absorption and removal of toxins and plaque. The oil will also give a protective coating to your gums and teeth and prevent recession of gums and dental decay.

Aloe Vera

Aloe is an anti-inflammatory and anti bacterial agent. Take the fresh gel from the aloe plant and use this for brushing your teeth. You can also use aloe gel as a mouthwash every day morning and after meals to protect your teeth and gums from decay and prevent receding of gums. Aloe also helps in healing of damaged gums and infections.

Coconut Oil

Being antimicrobial in nature, coconut oil too is a great remedy for treating receding gums and the cause behind it. Take some virgin coconut oil and swish your mouth with it after brushing your teeth.

This will give your teeth the necessary cover for protection against disease causing bacteria and germs and also prevent food particles and germs from sticking between and on the teeth and causing decay. Coconut oil can be used every day as a prevention method for receding gums and also for general oral hygiene.

Lemon Oil

Lemon has mild antiseptic qualities and is also an excellent antibacterial agent. However, direct application of lemon every day is not recommended as it can corrode the enamel.Lemon oil can be acquired or prepared at home by infusing olive oil with lemon for a few weeks.

This oil can be used for swishing your mouth first thing in the morning. Lemon oil helps in killing all the bacteria and prevents gum recession and tooth decay as well. Lemon also stimulates tissue formation and can encourage new tissues to grow in the place of damaged ones.

Eucalyptus

This strong essential oil helps in killing all the germs in the mouth and prevents tooth decay and gum diseases that lead to receding gums. Eucalyptus is also anti inflammatory in nature and helps in reducing swollen gums as well. Take some eucalyptus oil and dilute with water.Massage for a few minutes onto your gums every day and rinse off. This will stimulate new tissue growth and also reduce gum recession and damage due to bacterial action.

Clove

The action of cloves on decayed and damaged tooth and infection has been long praised. Clove oil is known to be a natural antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti fungal agent and helps in stimulating the growth and repair of damaged tissues. Cloves are very powerful as disinfectants and can stop bacterial action with frequent use. Use a clove every day or massage with clove oil for best results.

Myrrh

kind of resin that is obtained from trees, myrrh can be used for stopping the recession of gums and preventing root exposure and damage as well. It is also great for strengthening the gums. Myrrh can be used for rinsing the mouth or as a tooth powder or paste, whichever is convenient for you.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil can be diluted and used for swishing the mouth for preventing gum recession and root damage. Remember that the oil is very strong and should not be used without diluting it, lest it should cause burns. Tea tree oil is a powerful anti fungal and microbial agent anddestroys the bacteria and plaque buildup in the teeth and between the gums.

Also Read

Natural Cure For Receding Gums
Home Remedies For Sensitive Teeth

Sumac Tree

Sumac tree is known to have stringent qualities that can come of help for treating of receding gums. It helps in stimulation of the gums and also cleans the teeth, keeping them safe from decay and damage. Take a twig and peel the outer bark. Gently rub the inner partover the surface of the teeth and along the gums.

Yarrow

Wild yarrow too has several antiseptic and astringent qualities. The flower or the leaves of wild yarrow can be used for rubbing over your teeth and preventing gum recession to a great extent.

Sage Leaves

The leaves act as a tonic for the gums and are also an excellent treatment for the mucus membrane. Sage leaves can be directly rubbed on the gums and teeth for protection andtreatment of receding gums. Sage leaves can be used for making a tea as well for preparing a rinse for your gums. Add sage leaves to a cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes before using it for rinsing.

Rose Vinegar

Rose vinegar helps in strengthening the gums and can be used as a rinse for the mouth. For making rose vinegar, take 3 ounces of rose petals and soak in red wine vinegar solution. Steep for about seven days and strain it. A tablespoon of rose vinegar can be added to one cup of warm water and this can be used as a mouth rinse every day to prevent recession of gums.

7 Reasons Mushrooms Could Save the World

by Kristina Chew

Perhaps you only think about mushrooms when one sprouts up in your yard or when you’re ordering a pizza. But they have uses far, far beyond the kitchen:

1) An alternative to styrofoam packaging

Mushroom fibers can be used as an eco-friendly alternative to polystyrene, the synthetic (and potentially carcinogenic) polymer most of us encounter as styrofoam. An upstate New York company, Evocative Design, literally grows its product from corn stalks and vegetable husks injected with mushroom spores; the fibers are grown in molds and then baked in an oven so they have the right texture, hardness and elasticity.

Evocative Design recently made a deal with Sealed Air, a huge packaging wrap (think bubble wrap) company, to build factories that will make Restore Mushroom Packaging. One day, your purchases could arrive not packed in “peanuts” but in actual, biodegradable, mushroom fibers.

 

2) Oil, diesel and other petrochemical spill clean-up

Mycologist and researcher Paul Stamets was contacted by the EPA after the Deepwater Horizon spill to learn about how mushrooms could be used to clean up petrochemicals via a process called mycoremediation, in which toxic compounds are reduced into harmless ones by fungi. The EPA did not actually use his mushrooms but Stamets has carried on with research should future spills occur, developing strains of oyster mushrooms that can tolerate ocean salinity and metabolize oil that is floating on the surface of the sea.

3) A substitute for chemical fertilizers

Stamets’ company, Fungi Perfecti, also produces what he says is an alternative to fertilizer, Mycogrow. According to some organic farmers, Mycogrow fertilizes plants without causing pollution, says Alternet.

Swiss scientists have  found that plants and certain kinds of mushrooms, mycorrhizal fungi, form symbiotic relationships. The fungi acquire nutrients (including, in particular, phosphate) and are therefore able to “act as an extension of plants’ root systems, drastically reducing the need for phosphate fertilizers.”

4) An eco-way to clean up farm waste

In addition, mushrooms could help clean up farm waste: Sacks of mycelia (the vegetative part of a fungus that look like a mass of branching threads) can also be used to filter out toxins and bacteria, says Stamets.

5) A fungal insecticide

Pesticides based on fungi can replace the chemicals currently (and widely) used to kill ants and termites. Some mushrooms and toadstools have been found to contain compounds that, if isolated, could be used in developing insecticides.

6) Garbage disposal

We’re talking garbage on a massive, landfill-size scale: Certain types of mushrooms can break down 90 percent of the materials in dirty diapers in two months. Those diaper-eating fungi would be oyster mushrooms, which can grow on dead trees as they eat cellulose, the main component of disposable diapers.

7) A way to overcome the fear of death

That’s a tall order for a small fungus to fullfil.

Before anyone was worrying about eco-friendly packaging and pesticides, people have been turning to psilocybin mushroom — “magic mushrooms” — for their “transformative” (hallucinogenic) effects. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University say that the psychedelic drug in the mushrooms “reliably induce[d] transcendental experiences in volunteers, which offered long-lasting psychological growth and helped people find peace in their lives — without the negative effects.”

Scientists are trying to find the “sweet spot” that would enable people taking psylocybin to, as Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology, says “optimize the positive persistent effects and avoid some of the fear and anxiety that can occur [when taking the mushrooms].” Ultimately, Griffiths and the other researchers are seeking to find out whether such psychedelic experiences could help people recover from addiction and deal with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised if, one day, mushrooms inherit the earth?